Haven Pennington, loved by family and friends alike, is a girl who actively participates in her local church, is well spoken, humble and gives back to her community.
What isn’t obvious, is that she is one of the best wrestlers in the nation and perhaps the most dangerous woman in Grove.
Earlier this year after competing in the Oklahoma State Wrestling Meet she traveled to nationals in Tulsa and beat out the best of the best from all 50 of these United States, in the 113-pound weight class.
Pennington, who started her wrestling career in the first-grade, shows dedication like no other.
Working out three to four times a day, for an average of five hours, she still finds time to focus on her studies as she wraps up her senior year at Grove High School.
Her workout routine includes, running, lifting, boxing and wrestling in addition to strict dietary requirements.
Her typical diet consists of high protein meals with no carbs when she is trying to cut weight for a match.
Her training doesn’t stop in the gym as she is also studying Judo, Kickboxing, Muay Tai and Jiu-Jitsu to round out her skill set.
Pennington dreams to become an MMA or Mixed Martial Arts fighter once she turns 18. She also plans to continue her wrestling career and will participate in her first boxing match this fall.
Despite her drive and determination to better herself she faces a unique challenge that she needs the help of others to overcome.
Pennington is a girl in a state that doesn’t have a women’s wrestling team.
While it is impressive that she can compete, and win, against the boys on a regular basis, having only lost one dual last year, she still needs to wrestle against other women to have a chance at getting a college scholarship.
College recruiters don’t look for women at the boys matches, even though there are often women wrestling in the state of Oklahoma.
Many other states offer women’s competitive wrestling, which is where college scouts, intent on offering potential students’ scholarships, look.
For Pennington, to have the same opportunity as every other girl she must travel outside of the state to get noticed.
That is a significant expense for Pennington who is supported by her family, both teachers at Grove High School.
This means she needs a sponsor to help offset the cost of travel to competitions she needs to compete at to have the same opportunity as boys her age.
Since 1994, the number of women who wrestle in high school has increased from 804 to 16,562. In 2004 it was recognized as an Olympic sport.
“We are very excited to see the emergence of women’s wrestling,” said Mike Moyer, executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association. "Currently 12 states have women’s wrestling programs and there are 48 college sponsored wrestling programs around the nation."
"Many more states will be coming on board.”
Moyer said unlike most sports that start in high school and work their way up in popularity, wrestling started in the Olympics and worked its way down to the high schools.
Recently the former head wrestling coach at the University of Oklahoma, Mark Cody, was named Presbyterian College Director of Wrestling in South Carolina which has opened one of the nations first female D1 wrestling programs.
It is coaches like Cody, that Pennington hopes to catch the eye of, to pursue a high education and further her collegiate wrestling career.
“Haven does everything she can to compete and train to get better at her sport,” said Ruben Hernandez, a member of the High School wrestling booster club. “The girl doesn’t know how to not work hard, I admire her perseverance and determination and have enjoyed watching her wrestle many exciting victories the past few years.”
Pennington still has her senior year to finish, and a number a competitions on the road, before she must decide on where to attend college.
“I couldn’t have gotten where I am today with out the support and training I’ve received from my family and Coach Henry Ward,” said Pennington.
For those interested in sponsoring Pennington may contact her father and manager, Donnie Pennington at firstname.lastname@example.org